Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It Is Now Legal For Government To Wiretap You Without A Warrant

In a sweeping decision which has the effect of amending the United States Constitution, a Federal Appeals Court has ruled that the government may wiretap its citizens without a warrant.  To understand the impact of this court ruling, you must understand the history of this case.  Shortly after the Watergate scandal, Congress passed a series of domestic surveillance laws which prohibited the government from wiretapping its citizens without a warrant.  Shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 the Bush Administration invalidated the law and gave the ok to law enforcement to wiretap citizens phones without a warrant.  In 2008 Congress gave the Bush Administration the go-ahead to continue with the warrant-less wiretapping.  Five years before Congress authorized the warrant-less wiretapping the National Security Agency had illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of two attorneys with their clients in Saudi Arabia.  The Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program had been exposed in a 1995 New York Times article.  The illegal wiretapping of the attorneys phone calls with their clients had been  revealed in documents that had been turned over by the government by mistake in an unrelated case.  The attorneys sued the federal government for violating the domestic surveillance laws that Congress had enacted after Watergate and won.  Each attorney was awarded $20,000 plus $2.5 million in attorney fees.  The government appealed the attorneys victory and yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the government and dismissed the lawsuit and threw out the damages award.  In reaching this decision, the court ruled that when Congress passed the domestic surveillance laws after Watergate, it did not specifically waive the government's sovereign immunity, meaning it did not give citizens the right to sue the government when the government is caught illegally wiretapping them.  The Plaintiffs have indicated that they will continue to appeal this decision, but if it is not overturned, it effectively ends the court challenges to the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program since this is the only legal challenge to the once secret program.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295. 

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